Street furniture is mostly used during the day and not used during the night, except by some homeless, who spend the night on the public benches in parks and on squares. RainCity Housing, a non-profit that provides specialized housing for people living with mental illness and addiction, has launched multi-functional street furniture that can be used as seating during the day and ‘comfortable’ sleeping places for the homeless at night time.
The hospitable campaign for Vancouver’s homeless is developed in collaboration with Spring Advertising, and will be running for one month. The aim of RainCity Housing is to draw attention for the miserable conditions that the homeless in Vancouver have to sleep in, but also the lack of hospitality and compassion of society towards the homeless. Since many mental institutions have closed down in Vancouver more homeless are forced to live on the streets, and you can’t expect them to disappear, argues one of the initiators.
Two types of benches are part of this campaign — one bench can be transformed into a temporary shelter, while the other has two messages on it. One of the messages is written in ultraviolet ink and becomes legible when struck by sunlight, saying “This is a bench”. Once it’s dark the message is replaced by the text “This is a bedroom”, that’s written in glow-in-the-dark ink.
The campaign shows that a city can be more open and hospitable to the homeless, although it shouldn’t claim to offer proper sleeping places for them. In recent years it has become a trend to develop design projects for or create campaigns that address the homeless. ‘The homeless’ have become a pleasant design target group that doesn’t talk back. Projects under this label seem to be socially relevant, while the actual homeless do only seldomly really benefit. Having said that, I think this particular interventions makes a great campaign, done by an honest organization that really tries to improve the lives of the homeless.